By Kate Snyder
Several hundred more apartments are on their way to Seattle with a proposed plan for a residential building in the city’s South Lake Union neighborhood having cleared another design milestone. At a recommendation hearing Tuesday evening, the Downtown Design Review Board approved a proposal for a 45-story apartment building with retail space.
In total, the project – located at 616 Battery Street – would add 442 residential units with 2,550 square feet of retail space and 262 parking spaces in an above- and below-grade parking structure.
Holland Partner Group is the developer, and Weber Thompson is the architecture firm behind the project. John Stout, senior associate with Weber Thompson, gave the presentation to the board during the meeting on Monday. He spoke about the design challenges related to the site’s location at a major junction where Denny, Dexter, 7th and Borealis Avenue intersect.
“This is obviously a dense, urban site with great access to transportation and walkability,” Stout said. “Looking at our site in particular, we do have some unique challenges and opportunities on this site. The [State Route] 99 tunnel that was recently decommissioned as part of the new tunnel is located under our right-of-way along the western property boundary, which changed what we could do in that right-of-way.”
Stout further said that the proposed design includes a “very short” alley – approximately 95 feet – that will be built out. He also highlighted a very narrow site on the western edge of the building that’s about 108 feet from east to west, which is about 12 feet narrower than the typical Seattle city block. Stout also pointed out that the design team is trying to maintain as many of the existing trees on both street frontages as possible, with the plans calling for the removal of just two trees at this point.
At a previous Early Design Guidance meeting, the board supported the design team’s preferred option and overall design. The board then expressed appreciation for the work done to the challenging site and the creation of a cohesive building that is representative of its location. They also expressed approval at the use of open space utilized throughout the project and noted their excitement to see the project’s design develop further.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the board discussed the long blank facade on the side of the building facing Borealis, a possible further refinement of cohesive bike movements around the landscape layouts, lighting for security and pedestrian needs and the potential continued refinement for lighting at the top of the building. Overall, the board was pleased with the design and supported the six departures submitted by the design team.
The board added a condition to one departure, which was for the blank facade on Borealis. Board members discussed that they would like to see some kind of art or graphic possibly integrated into the design.
Che Fortaleza, board member, highlighted the landscaping along Borealis and how well the trees were incorporated into the design. However, she also noted that the facade is blank and believes the applicant could work with the planner on art options.
“The tree placement opens up this area and makes it like a focal point instead of hiding it behind the trees,” she said. “I feel like it provides security in that area…opening it up to the street makes it more visible and secure. On the other hand, it’s also very blank, so I feel like there may be an opportunity to integrate some art.”
On the other hand, Jake Woll, board member, was inclined to support the design without any conditions.
“The design team’s done a great job,” he said. “I would be hesitant to condition much of anything. Their studies up to this point have delivered a pretty successful project.”
Holland Partner Group purchased the project site last year for $40 million, according to The Registry’s previous reporting. The 0.4-acre South Lake Union site was sold by Seattle-based Clise Properties and previously housed the former Old Elephant Car Wash. Upon completion, the project would join numerous residential developments by Holland Partner Group in the Seattle area, including the 410-unit Ivey on Boren project and the 461-unit Kiara apartment complex at 111 Terry Avenue N.